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World's biggest ice sheets likely more stable than previously believed
Date:5/16/2013

For decades, scientists have used ancient shorelines to predict the stability of today's largest ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. Markings of a high shoreline from three million years ago, for example when Earth was going through a warm period were thought to be evidence of a high sea level due to ice sheet collapse at that time. This assumption has led many scientists to think that if the world's largest ice sheets collapsed in the past, then they may do just the same in our modern, progressively warming world.

However, a new groundbreaking study now challenges this thinking.

Using the east coast of the United States as their laboratory, a research team led by David Rowley, CIFAR Senior Fellow and professor at the University of Chicago, has found that the Earth's hot mantle pushed up segments of ancient shorelines over millions of years, making them appear higher now than they originally were millions of years ago.

"Our findings suggest that the previous connections scientists made between ancient shoreline height and ice volumes are erroneous and that perhaps our ice sheets were more stable in the past than we originally thought," says Rowley. "Our study is telling scientists that they can no longer ignore the effect of Earth's interior dynamics when predicting historic sea levels and ice volumes."

The study, published online in Science on May 16, was a collaboration that included CIFAR Senior Fellows Alessandro Forte (Universit du Qubec Montral) and Jerry Mitrovica (Harvard), and a former CIFAR-supported post-doctoral fellow Rob Moucha (Syracuse).

"This study was the culmination of years of work and deep collaboration by researchers in CIFAR's program in Earth System Evolution," explains Rowley. "For this study, each of us brought our individual expertise to the table: Rob and Alex worked on simulations of Earth's mantle dynamics, Jerry provided calculations on how glaciers warp Earth's surfa
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Contact: Margaret Mroziewicz
mmroziewicz@cifar.ca
416-971-4876
Canadian Institute for Advanced Research
Source:Eurekalert

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